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Cultivating the Millennials on Your Team

As a Millennial who has been in many different work settings where I’ve heard my fair share of grumblings about how my generation shows up and contributes to the work environment, I think it’s time to set the record straight! It’s important to dispel rumors and misunderstandings so that all five of the generations that are currently in the workplace can work in harmony.


There are techniques for cultivating and inspiring the millennial leaders on your team. We're here to stay; we take up most of the workforce at this point. So it's important for older generations to learn how to cultivate us.


Those Darn Millennials!

Millennials are people who were born between 1981 and 2000. We were the youngest generation to experience Y2K at the time.


Who are we?

  • We are heavily achievement oriented

  • We have a desire to matriculate through life and the career ladder through any means necessary

  • We are competitive

  • We are civic-minded professionals who care about current affairs and how we can make a positive impact

  • We favor innovative solutions over the status quo


What do we want?

  • Meaningful work

  • Work-life integration because work is an extension of what we do—not the only thing we do

  • Lots of growth and development

  • To reach the highest rung on our career ladder

  • To build a trustworthy network


Why do we want it?

  • High student loan debt

  • ROI on advanced degrees

  • To make an immediate impact in society


Millennial Myth Busting


Let’s bust some typical myths about Millennials in the workplace:


  • We are perpetual job hoppers. In some cases, that is true. But studies have shown that compared to Generation X at the same age between 25 and 29, millennials actually stayed a little bit longer at one job.

  • We want constant praise from our leaders. More than anything, we want transparency over praise and participation trophies.

  • We prefer to communicate digitally. Studies show that concerning development and building relationships, Millennials prefer to engage in person.

  • Millennial career goals and expectations are different from older generations. At the core, we want the same things out of our lives and careers. We want the ability take care of our families, leave a legacy in the world, work in a fair environment, influence society for the better, and enjoy our work. Our approach may be different but we’re more alike than we are different.


Cultivating Your Aspiring Millennial Leaders 

Here's a quote that I believe perfectly describes the Millennial sentiment:


“You don't have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt, you have an obligation to play the hell out of the cards that you're holding.” – unknown


Just by numbers alone, our influence in the workplace is growing rapidly.    

  • By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. It’s imperative the workplace evolves to a point where our systems, processes, and structures include concepts that were created in our lifetime.

  • 42% of Millennials admit to being stressed out ALL of the time. This could be attributed to the way we approach work. Every Millennial I know is extremely stressed out with work. Not enjoying your work can be difficult but work taking so much of a toll that it spills into your personal life is miserable.

  • 63% of Millennials believe they lack the leadership development they need to succeed. We don't feel like we are getting the education and knowledge to lead teams. Remember, we're driven by achievement and paying off student loans. Consistent development keeps us engaged.

  • Millennials involved in workplace decisions affecting them are four to 64 times more likely to do best in their roles. We like to be part of what's happening, even if we're not in leadership roles. I've worked for a company where I begged to provide input some knowledge, expertise or perspective. I felt overlooked and deflated after my attempts were ignored.

  • 61% of Millennials confessed that they accepted a management role because it was the only option for them to earn more or advanced professionally. This is a scary stat as it tells us some Millennials are taking roles they aren’t prepared for at alarming rates! Think about how this affects the dynamics and culture of the team.


Ultimately, it's important that we cultivate Millennials through the entire employee lifecycle. This includes onboarding, professional development, and offboarding.



If you’ve hired a Millennial for a non-leadership role, trust me, they're already thinking about leadership. The mindset is, “I’ll stay in this position for like six months to a year. Then I'm expecting to have a conversation with my manager about my move upward.” Even if we're applying for a coordinator position, many of us are already thinking, “How long can I stay here? Is there somewhere else for me to go?”


To the leader who is managing this new-hire Millennial, make sure you have an open and realistic discussion about their potential career trajectory. If the role they are applying for is the ceiling for them, be honest with them upfront. In some cases, the situation might work just based on lifestyle, school, or other commitments. Also, if there isn't a clear upward mobility for your new Millennial hire, involve them in how they can shape the role. Help them create a sense of ownership!


I recommend creating a 30, 60, and 90 day “overcoming the learning curve” plan. The learning curve has traditionally been a silent expectation from different perspectives between manager and employee. If you can outline specifically what a typical learning curve looks like for your company and each role on your team, then the employee won’t burn themselves out trying to impress you or have the perception that they’re not meeting the mark.


I also recommend providing coaching in the first 90 days to build transparency, set expectations, and minimize time wasters. If you’re familiar with TTI’s Trimetrix HD report, it’s a great tool that measures behavioral strengths and weaknesses, specific time wasters, areas of improvement, and keys to managing the professional.


 Professional Development

You must provide both team and individual professional development opportunities on an ongoing basis to get the best of your employees. Some companies conduct a once-a-year big training event that’s like a mini concert. This is entertaining but not always effective or well received by Millennials.


In some cases, managers might be concerned with overdeveloping people with the fear that they will leave—losing the ROI on the employee. However, being intentional about developing your people is more of a success than a failure. Remember, Millennials are looking for work-life integration. Therefore, however you're developing us, we're also thinking about how we apply this to both work and life. This effort promotes loyalty to the company. But for the team to reach a new standard in levels of consistent productivity, using their strengths, and minimizing conflict then professional development is critical for the individual and the team without one diluting into the other. Also, you must allow them to have a say in what the training is and what they’re being trained on. Otherwise, they will disengage.


I’ve had a previous work experience where our leaders blocked off our calendars for seven hours out of the eight-hour day and didn’t tell the team what it was for. We were all confused, and it caused some concern, grumbling, and anxiety. The time ended up being devoted to a great team-building day but the way it rolled out felt strange. The lack of transparency made the team feel uneasy.



This is a learning and reflecting exercise to highlight blind spots and fine-tune your hiring, onboarding or professional development processes. It’s important for leaders to understand why an employee is leaving instead of choosing to be personally offended by it. Many leaders missed this—especially with Millennials. We are the generation that leaves brutally honest reviews on Glassdoor. Some people even leave names. I recommend taking a new approach, which is to learn from their experience. Consider:

  • Is there some knowledge you can still glean from them? Perhaps they can be a consultant for you in another capacity.

  • What can you learn from this employee’s experience? Conduct an experience interview instead of an exit interview which will create a more fruitful conversation.

  • Did you miss something in the hiring process? I administer job benchmarks that give in depth insight into the potential success and longevity of an employee. There is an equation that I call “Perfect Fit Hiring” that creates the best possible match for both the employee and the company. Hint: it includes looking at factors beyond academic background and qualifications.


Tips for Successful Implementation

Use these insights to successfully cultivate your aspiring Millennial leader: 

  • Get to know them through data. The TTI Trimetrix HD, EQ, and Stress Quotient assessments are great tools to identify behavioral styles, emotional intelligence, and the source of workplace stress. This helps you build impactful and trustful relationships and be an equitable leader to your team.

  • Provide them with a coach who’s not you. As leaders, we wear seven hats at minimum.  You're positioned to lead people, but coaches are trained to coach them. Hiring an outside professional allows Millennials to feel like they can be honest without putting their job in jeopardy. This will reduce distrust and disengagement.


  • Schedule monthly meetings that are not about performance. Who wants to talk about performance all the time? Constant conversations about performance can affect morale. It’s more effective to schedule monthly check-in with each team member to model transparency and solve potential problems before they arise so there’s no surprises in the performance review.


  • Connect them with a mentor of another generation. Millennials want to learn from other generations. This is a great opportunity to foster cross collaboration and break down communication gaps.


  • Integrate digital learning resources into their performance plan. One-time trainings are great to give your team a boost of energy. However, without ongoing, supplemental material to hold on to, it will fall flat within a week. Providing online learning resources keeps the professional development efforts working, increases mastery of competencies on a consistent basis, and allows for the application of these skills into today’s work.


All in all, when Millennials are leveraged well, they can create momentum for thriving culture and a successful business.  

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